The Election Commission seems to be a constitutional body in the grip of controversy. Authoritative sources have confirmed that Chief Election Commissioner, N Gopalaswami has written a minority note of dissent in the case of Congress party president, Sonia Gandhi's Order of Leopold.
While, the other two Election Commissioners, Mr Navin Chawala - CEC designate - and Mr SY Qureshi have after a close examination of the matter given Mrs Gandhi a clean chit, Mr Gopalaswami seems to be determined to keep roiling the waters. After being clearly in the minority (EC is a three-member body with majority decisions prevailing) he has chosen to table a note of dissent.
A leading constitutional expert said, “The EC today is a poster child for the credibility of the elections yet, instead of letting grace prevail after being over-ruled on merits Mr Gopalaswami has chosen to drag the commission in to controversy yet again. Surely some wisdom and maturity should prevail at such a sensitive time.''
It may be recalled that the Order of Leopold case pertained to a honour awarded to Mrs Gandhi by the King of Belgium. A complaint was filed by Mr P Rajan to Rashtrapati Bhavan which forwarded it to the EC. The complaint claimed that by accepting the honour was effectively like accepting a knighthood in Britain and thereby becoming a citizen of that country.
The complaint was examined in great detail by a heavy-weight panel of constitutional and legal experts with the final view of the EC that it was nothing of that sort and a mere honour. In its ruling the majority EC wanted to dismiss the charge and clearly say that the complaint had no merit. Says an official who is dealing with the matter “after the recent run in with the government on Chawala Gopalaswami could have just chosen to accede to his colleagues instead, this new bolt from the blue.''
Explains the official, “Just on merits there was nothing in the case. A view that was officially put across the Ministry of External Affairs to the EC yet, the CEC ordered a detailed inquiry with hearings being held for over a year. Even after this he chose to strike a discordant note. This is singularly unfortunate as it affects the entire image of impartiality of the EC - built up painstakingly with flawless election management.''
At a time with elections just four weeks away it does seem that Mr Gopalawmi is determined to leave office on a jarring note.